(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
As the campaign for the coming municipal elections gathers steam, most of the attention is focused on the mayoral candidates – but the lists running for seats city council are also being hotly contested.
“It’s wartime” one council candidate said earlier this week, “and no prisoners will be taken.”
One of the key topics at this point is who the official candidate of the Likud will be, benefiting from the prime minister’s endorsement and the party’s financial support. Until recently, Moshe Lion was the presumed choice – not as an official Likud candidate, but as a party member, he was considered suited for the position. With significant support from the haredi sector, his chances to win were considered strong.
But much has changed in the past few weeks. A significant haredi segment is considering running their own candidate, although there is internal opposition to doing so.
“It’s too high-risk,” a leading source in that sector said this week.
On Monday evening, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman announced that his party supports Yossi Daitch’s candidacy, a declaration that caused tension and anger among parts of the haredi sector. Litzman represents the hassidic Agudat Yisrael stream of the United Torah Judaism alliance, as does Daitch, but the Lithuanian stream (Degel Hatorah), which still strongly opposes endorsing a haredi candidate bristled at Litzman’s move. Itzhak Pindrus, a deputy mayor like Daitch, is a Lithuanian. While in principle strongly opposed to a haredi mayoral candidate, he has repeatedly declared that if the rabbis approve such a move, he sees himself as a candidate whose chances of winning are greater than Daitch’s.
But the major drama is elsewhere. Since Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin announced his candidacy
, there has not been one dull moment in his Likud party. His supporters and opponents are battling prior to the decision that counts the most. It was rumored that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would announce his choice during the Jerusalem Day celebrations, but he didn’t, and since then, the pressure has been increasing. The Mahaneh Yehuda Merchants Association – which is like a second Likud branch in the city – endorsed Elkin and sent a plea in his behalf to the prime minister. They even issued a flyer representing Elkin as the city’s savior. This influential branch of the party is not easily disregarded, but there is still no word from the top.
One of the reasons could be pressure on Netanyahu from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who favors Lion. Lion also has the backing of Internal Affairs Minister Arye Deri. Tuesday was scheduled for an agreement between Liberman and Netanyahu on the matter, but the situation in the south changed the plans and Elkin is still waiting for a green light from his party.
There is also maneuvering going on among the other candidates and lists. To maximize electoral strength, activists are seeking to create a bloc of pluralist lists for the council and rally around a single mayoral candidate with the best chance to be elected. As the Jewish population of the city is 39% haredi, 28% religious, 17% secular and about 14% traditional, a non-haredi candidate who can “speak” to religious, secular and traditional voters stands a good chance of winning.
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